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Bee Wiser

Greetings! Another interesting "bee summer" has passed and, because of its importance, I will try to summarize for you the honey plant blooming sequence for this year. For the sake of you new members/beekeepers, this list applies to the area where my bee yards are, at 1600-1800+ ft. elevation, near 1-80. Most of you will have the same bloom sequence, but probably a week or so earlier than here. By familiarizing yourself with a bloom chart, you can super ahead of these flows, and will greatly reduce forced swarming and vastly increase your honey crop.

Mar 22 -- Water haulers active, which indicates they're raising a lot of brood
April 5 -- Red maple blooming; hard maple is last (maple bloom covers most of the month of April-great for buildup)
April 28 -- Oriental plums, apricots, peaches
May 6 -- Earliest apples, with dandelions in full bloom; wild strawberries starting Dandelions are my "Q" for making splits over double screens and setting out bait hives
May 10 -- Wild fire cherry and tame sour cherry; tame strawberries.
May 12 -- Chokecherry, blueberries and yellow rocket (mustard) starting
May 15 -- Sassafras starting (bees not working it this year); 80% of apple bloom finished
May 20 -- Honeysuckle and autumn olive starting.
May 25 -- End of late apple variety blossoms; wild black cherry starting; mustard in full bloom
May 29 -- Silver hawthorn (mostly pollen)
May 31 -- *Raspberries and *blackberries starting
June 3 -- *Tulip poplar in full bloom and *black locust trees starting; mustard nearly ended; white Dutch and alsike clover starting White Dutch/alsike flow is my "Q" for making splits into 5-frame nuc boxes
June 13 -- *White Dutch, *alsike, red and yellow sweet clovers in full bloom; birds foot trefoil
June 19 -- Grape vines, catalpa trees starting
June 22 -- Purple flowering raspberry
June 26 -- *'Oriental" chestnuts
June 28 -- *Stag horn sumac starting
July 1 -- * White sweet clover,*milkweed and *basswood trees
July 8 -- *Basswood in full bloom (only 2 weeks)
August 11 -- *Jewelweed' starting (almost stopped immediately due to dry weather)
August 14 -- *Knapweed, farm crop *soybeans (bees not interested this year), scattered clovers, alfalfa, *Purple loosestrife
September 1-- Early goldenrod varieties... no honeybee interest as normal for these plants
September 7 -- *Late goldenrod starting; the first wet nectar found in colonies for almost 6 weeks
September 15 -- Fall asters are blooming until heavy killing frosts
* Indicates heavy honey producers if you have good bee population, weather conditions and empty supers available for nectar storage.

Almost everyone lives in an excellent location for at least 2 or 3 of these plants. Only you will be able to determine the surplus nectar flows for your apiary location.

White Dutch is an excellent time (due to temperature and nectar flow) for hatching-quality queens to be well mated and for starting splits. The exceptionally dry weather hindered small colony development. July/August splits, or any swarms you caught/hived benefited greatly this year by supplemental feedings. Many members have reported that this past spring was the best they've had for honey flow in a long time, especially the black locust. The late goldenrod came to the rescue of many full-sized colonies. Of the late June/July splits, there were 21 of mine that were a little light for winter. Syrup fixed all but two...I'll try frames of honey for them. I've never had to feed my splits, but it's probably something I should do every year to guarantee a colony with 6 or 7 frames of honey, pollen and bees...this is my personal goal for excellent wintering and quick spring buildup. I've had practically no successful wintering with anything under 4 frames. This will be my first year for trying some of the polyurethane 5-frame nucs over wintering. For spring/summer development this year, they were better than wood. They developed faster and seemed to be less affected by weather changes.

At the PA State Beekeeper's Association Annual Meeting this past November 11-12, they had two main guest speakers who presented their views on how to develop a beekeeping system using over-wintered splits. Kirk Webster from Vermont gave a talk on his method of operating 300 colonies, plus splits, raising his own queens and without using medication. Roy Henderson from near Cleveland, Ohio spoke about 5-frame nucs and supering them for honey production. He did purchase queens and medicated when necessary. It was encouraging to know that other beekeepers are succeeding in developing this form of management. Even Penn State is testing a similar system. Hopefully it will be successful.

If anyone is looking for ideas for a good Christmas gift for your favorite beekeeper, I'd like to recommend the following books: First Lessons in Beekeeping ($4.95) is a super buy for beginners or Penn State's Beekeeping Basics (about $10). On a higher level, The Beekeeper's Handbook by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile, 3rd Edition ($25.70) is very good. For someone interested in raising queens, I found Contemporary Queen Rearing by Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. ($11.95..ISBN# 0915698064) very informative. The old standby, The Hive and the Honeybee ($36.00...ISBN# 0915698099) is good, but most people would find this to be an interesting choice after first understanding most of the information in the first four books. These books are available through most of the bee supply catalogs. If you have access to the internet, there are websites where you can purchase used beekeeping books that are just like new. I've taken advantage of this several times. We have a credit card with a low limit on it just to use for internet purchases. Sometimes you can save half the cost of the book. One of the websites that has quite a few books is abebooks.com. To be positive of the right book listed, the ISBN # is very helpful.

Have a good beekeeper's Christmas!
Jerry Stormer, Punxsutawney